Wednesday, May 18, 2011

China unlikely to ease crackdown on Shouwang Church

Shouwang Church members were
forced to meet outside in 2009.
Photo ChinaAid
Todd Nettleton with our sister mission VOM USA recently spoke with Mission Network News about the escalating persecution toward a house church in Beijing that has been attracting international attention.

The Shouwang Church in Beijing has been in a battle of rights with China for years, but the struggle has only just come into focus for most. The 1,000-member church was ousted from its building when their landlord was pressured by officials to evict them. For the past six weeks, Shouwang members have been meeting publically outside.

During the first week of meeting, over 160 members were arrested under the auspices of disturbing the peace. Most arrested were released within a few hours, but the church leaders have been on house arrest since.

Each subsequent outdoor Sunday worship service has resulted in dozens more arrests.

While international news investigations have brought to light the issue across the globe, Nettleton says China will likely not be swayed.

"In spite of all of the publicity, in spite of the international outcry, the Chinese government has continued to hold a very firm line: ‘We will not allow this church to meet because they are not registered with the Chinese religious officials,'" explains Nettleton.

Shouwang did attempt to register with China's official Three-Self Patriotic Church, willing to be a recognized church within certain parameters. The church was denied registration—a common happenstance Nettleton says for churches who don't wish to place communism before Christ.

The best-case scenario for Shouwang is that the government would grant registration for the church and allow services to go unhindered. The worst-case scenario is filled with uncertainty.

"The worst-case scenario is that we see this continued string of arrests—more and more people arrested, detained, held maybe on administrated detention for 15 days, maybe some will be locked up away for longer periods of time," says Nettleton. "Really, the worst-case scenario is that it just goes on and on indefinitely, without the church getting the rights that they're promised—without any kind of an end in sight."

Pray that this would not be the case.

Amid turmoil, ongoing persecution and blatant obstructions of religious freedom, the church in China continues to grow. Pray that the Lord would use even this scenario to bring more to His Kingdom.

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